New Jersey freshwater fish identification
Pickeral, Pike, Muskie and Gar
Family Esocidae, Family Lepisosteidae
Pickeral, Pike and Muskie are of the Esocidae family and are all predatory and large. They have a large duckbill-
like snout, cycloid scales, a forked caudal fin and dorsal and anal fins located far back on their cylindrical body.
There are no spines in the fins. They are voracious feeders that prey on a wide variety of fish and other creatures
and because of their size and fighting behavior, they are a favorite among sport fisherman. Gars are primitive fish
belonging to the Lepisosteidae family, and are recognized by their long sharply-toothed jaws, diamond shaped
ganoid scales, and dorsal and anal fins located far back on the body. Gars have a spiral valve, a lunglike gas bladder
used to assist the gills in breathing.
Redfin pickeral (Esox americanus) grow to about 15 inches in length and have a fully scaled cheek and opercle
and a broad, convex snout. They are dark olive to brown above and dark green below with red lower and caudal
fins. Adults have wavy brown bars along the sides. Gerald Humphrey caught the NJ state record Redfin pickeral
of 1 Lbs. 13 Oz. in Lake Assunpink in 1982. The NJ daily bag limit is 25 fish with no minimum size.
Chain pickeral (Esox niger) can reach about 40 inches in length and have a fully scaled cheek and opercle. The
distance from the tip of the snout to the middle of the eye is greater than the distance from the middle of the eye
to the rear edge of the gill cover. They are greenish brown with a chainlike yellow pattern in adults, and wavy bars
on the young. In 1957, Frank McGovern caught the NJ record of 9 Lbs. 3 Oz. in the Lower Aetna Lake. The daily
bag limit is 5 fish of any size, but must be 12 inches in the Delaware River, and 15 inches in Greenwood Lake, Lake
Hopatcong, Swartswood Lake and Lake Hammonton.
Northern pike (Esox lucius) grow to about 53 inches, have a fully scaled cheek and a partly scaled opercle.
Adults have rows of yellow bean-shaped spots; young have yellow to white wavy bars along the sides. They
usually have black spots on all fins except the pectoral. The 30 Lbs. 2 Oz. NJ record was caught in Spruce Run
Reservoir by Herb Hepler in 1977. The bag limit is 2 fish per day in aggregate (except in the Delaware River) with
Muskies or hybrids, and must be at least 24 inches.
Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) can reach about 72 inches in length and have a partly scaled cheek and
opercle. They are light yellow to green on the back and sides with dark spots or bars and cream to white below
with small brown to gray blotches. Large muskies are dark gray on top. The muskie is a solitary hunter, lurking in
cover and lunging after its prey. They begin feeding on other fish at about 4 days of age, and can reach 12 inches
in only 4 months. Bob Neals caught the 42 Lbs. 13 Oz. NJ state record in the Monksville Reservoir in 1997.
Here is a photo of that beast. Per NJ state regulations, the bag limit is 2 fish per day in aggregate (except in
the Delaware River) with Northern pike, and must be at least 30 inches in length. Check the laws when fishing
for Muskies in Greenwood Lake, Mountain Lake and Echo Lake as they differ from the general regulations.
Tiger muskie grow to about 70 inches and are a hybrid between Northern pike and Muskellunge. They have a
strong barring pattern along the sides, and are considered one of the best fighting freshwater fish in existence. Larry
Migliarese caught the NJ state record-breaking fish of 29 Lbs. 0 Oz. in the Delaware River in 1990. Per NJ state
regulations, the bag limit is 2 fish per day in aggregate (except in the Delaware River) with Northern pike, and must
be at least 30 inches in length. Check the laws when fishing for Muskies in Greenwood Lake, Mountain Lake and
Echo Lake as they differ from the general regulations.
Longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus) grow to about 72 inches and have a long, narrow snout more than twice as
long as the rest of its head with 1 row of large teeth on the upper jaw. They are olive-brown above and on the sides
and white below with dark spots on the median fins and sometimes along the body. Young have a narrow brown
stripe along the back and a broad dark-brown stripe along the sides. Longnose gar prefer sluggish pools or back-
waters of large rivers. They are rare in NJ.
questions about fish terminology? GO TO: FISH BODY CHARTS
GO TO NJ FRESHWATER FISH ID MAIN PAGE
GO TO NJ COMMON FRESHWATER FISH PAGE
GO TO NJ UNCOMMON FRESHWATER FISH PAGE
By Joe M. Cianci. See main page for list of sources. Send E mail to me at email@example.com Comments welcome!
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